12 January 2016

Joy and Tragedy: The Story of DLSL High School 1991 Part I


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[Last weekend, I attended one of the activities being held by the DLSL HS Class of 1991 in preparation for their 25th anniversary celebration. I was amazed at how comfortable I immediately was in the company of my former students, even if I had not seen most of them for the longest time. Meeting them provided the motivation to revisit the 1991 yearbook.

The class yearbook, unfortunately, ran into problems with the press. Even though the school called in the NBI and filed a case in court, all the pictures and layouts could not be recovered. The yearbook that was eventually released was from the pictures left over.

To compensate for all the memories that were lost, I wrote a piece entitled “Moderately Yours.” This I now share for members of the class and others to enjoy. I wrote in the first person because I was dedicating it to the Class of 1991; but it could have been the story of many seniors who graduated from DLSL in the eighties and nineties.

This is going to be long read. Hence, I broke the story down into several pages. I hope you will not get tired of it and read through the end of what was a story of profound joy and tragedy.]

April the second in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-one shall always be one of the most important dates I shall carry in my mind to my old age. Mission accomplished and with the highest possible sense of achievement and self-satisfaction. Yes, all these and no matter what people who did not know you very well might have thought or said. Sour grapes, I am afraid to say, make the wine very bad indeed.

The mood for graduation was just the right one. You were happy, I was happy, your advisers were happy. We all had a right to be happy. We were all extremely pleased – and with good reason – just to have gotten that far. There were moments during the school year when luck seemed to have deserted us all and we were down in the pits, wondering what we could have done to deserve all the misfortunes that came our way. Life is like that. It is like a road with traps and hair-raising curves. In the end, what must come right, inevitably, does come right!

Two years ago, I felt I was being dumped into the Third Year Level after three relatively smooth years with the Seniors. It took me about a month to discover that life had, yet again, taken one of those wicked twists for the better. You and I were going to hit it off just fine! If your batch was a woman, I would have taken you straight home!

CULTURE SHOCKED

So okay, maybe my very first case in the third year was a bit of a culture shock, and incidentally thus began my rather lengthy association with that little livewire act, hyperactive, naughty, busybody of a brat named Edsel Bautista. Said Edsel unfortunately sat on a thumb tack mischievously placed on his seat by the equally impish Marlon Villanueva, later of the Taboo III fame, during Mr. Romil Silva's Filipino, note: not Filipino, class. This, I hollered at the shirking, wretched brats, was not something an ex-fourth year Moderator was used to dealing with.

Then there was, of course, the mysterious case of the disappearing 603 students. Soon, it began to look as though there was a depopulation campaign mapped out for the class. We even had the blasted room blessed to ward off whatever evil spirits might have taken residence! Now that I come to think about it, that blessing incident begins to seem really astonishingly silly! It did not work, the jinx was too strong for the Holy Water, and by the end of the school year, the population of the class was down to forty-three from the original fifty-seven.

So there was the reason for the dissolution of R-604. Class 603 had simply become too clean to dissolve. My word, but Ms. Lorna Guavez was making a habit of crying an ocean each day in 604 during Homeroom! Once, I espied the poor little lady (eh what?!) crying her heart out and looking miserable right outside of the classroom. I had no choice but to walk in and try to drum some sense into the class’ perverse adolescent minds. I knew Ms. Guavez’s sinus cavities must have been filled to overflowing, but I still wished she blew her nose elsewhere instead of right outside the room. I mean, the sound was so alien in the 600 Hall that I was startled into the beginnings of a giggle, and only my own personal discipline prevented what could have been a true disciplinary tragedy: the Year Level Moderator choked up with unsuppressed laughter in the middle of a sermon! My homily was, at the very least, definitely interrupted!

Alright. Nobody really wants to remember about Third Year. All of the above were just peripheral details to the main story.

None of the Year Level Moderators had previously taken on a batch for two consecutive years. I was therefore apprehensive about being assigned to do so, even if I was told as early as March that I would revert to my former job as fourth year boss.

The first day of enrolment was a veritable omen, right smack on my birthday! A few of you were unpleasantly surprised to see me at the enrolment table passing out the registration forms. Many wanted to know if I would still be your moderator. I would not confirm it, careful not to draw those insulting words not again! A few did not bother to ask and – actually dared! I would have gladly committed homicide/manslaughter if I had a shotgun at hand or even just a butcher’s knife.

THE SENIORS OF ‘91

Just who were to be the seniors for the school year 1990-91? Well, ex-402 was to remain invariably tied to the apron strings of ex-401, the spirit of neighbourliness untainted by the keen sense of competition to be expected among the members of the patrician class. The latter was assigned the tail end room of the corridor at 206, the former right next door at 205. Ex-601 was supposed to be in 204, but I had wanted to keep the behemoths in sight from the Moderator's Office, and switched them to 202 instead. Ex-603 went to 203, while ex-602 was to be the new 204. Ex-605, erstwhile tail end of the Third year Level, reversed roles and was to lead out the Fourth Year from 201.


Choosing the Homeroom Advisers was, as always, a fascinating business. My association with Mr. Avegel Leynes and Mrs. Juliet Sumcad in the Fourth Year Level went as far back as the days of Batch ‘89, so I anticipated working with them again. Mr. Leynes was quite perfect for 204. On the other hand, Mrs. Sumcad, she who always walked in a straight line, so smooth, so svelte, so demure, never a feather out of place, could restore some sanity to those large, unpredictable men of 202.

1 had never worked with Mr. Romil Silva before, but of course his reputation preceded him. The man who wielded Excalibur every time there was a contest was going to be perfect as adviser to 201, erstwhile dustbin of the Third Year Level, to restore some pride and confidence to students whose egos had previously taken sound beatings.

Mrs. Tess Latay was no stranger to the batch, having been such a stark, raving success with 202 during their 505 days. There was to be no happy reunion, however. What I had in mind for her was 203, who had just passed through such a traumatic third year in High School. Her motherly charms seemed suited to the class, regardless of the fact that she had yet to be a mother, making us all wonder where the Right Honourable Mr. Latay was expending all his energies!

Ms. Malu Rosales was a bit of a dilemma. She had more loads in the Third year than the Fourth. Ethically, she should have remained in the Third Year Level to work with the new Third Year boss, Mr. Nelson Gonzales, he of the He-Man fame, pectorals, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, lats. and all. I was in no mood to be ethical, however, and happily worked my charms on the bemused Malunggay Rosales, dragging her to a first-ever Fourth Year advisory stint. Into 205 she went, while I congratulated myself for this act of high-sea piracy!

That left 206 as the only class still motherless. For them, the person I had in mind was Ms. Baby Rosales. At first, she really didn't want to know, quite intent as she was on her personal resolve not to take an advisory class for at least a year. I patiently chipped away at that resolve, promising her that the new 206 was going to pose no problems and thus give her no headaches. Well, at least it seemed that way at the time! Eventually, she capitulated, thus completing my cast of Homeroom Advisers for the new school year.

DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

The new Seniors seemed resigned to the fact that I was going to be in charge for yet another year. Come the first day of school and nobody seemed particularly surprised to see me patrolling the fourth year wing. That was a relief! Though I doubt that anyone noticed, I was in fact feeling uncharacteristically jittery. Part of it was because I had never before managed a batch for two consecutive years, and so the prospect of doing so had a certain amount of novelty to it. Then there was this little matter of Tita Cory and her godforsaken government’s little experiment. I am sure you all remember the ill-conceived and infamous daylight-saving time. Well, my Mom just couldn’t get things right and woke me up at five o’clock DST, which was only four o’clock normal time! Why, even the roosters did not know yet that it was already morning! It was too early to have breakfast, so I made do with two cups of Master Roast and a cigarette, the perfect way to obtain advanced hyperacidity. Add to this my apprehensions about the school year's opening and really, my stomach was doing triple somersaults that morning of June 11, 1990.

My first real concern was tardiness. Few of you could remember the Marcos-era DST imposition, so having sunlight until 7:30 in the evening was such a peculiar treat. Many of you found DST convenient in the evenings, but were just as conveniently back to normal time for the mornings. To my utter misery!

Batch ‘90 conceived all sorts of clever ploys to avoid detection by their Moderator, Br. Ruben, when they arrived tardy. Alas for you, the Gestapo was going to be more difficult to elude. I installed Colonel Edwin alias Chicken Man Laset to stand by the 206 steel gate during Homeroom to deny entry to seniors after the second bell. It became a source of amusement later to observe 206 people who had gone out on last minute forays trying to bargain with the unflappable Colonel but to no avail.

And wasn’t it just my good fortune that my good friend Jomer Rosales did not show up for school until the third week of classes! The inimitable Jomer, a staunch adherent of the nine o'clock habit – of coming to school, that is – had a trip to the States aborted and therefore had to stay local for yet another year. Incidentally, His Royal Tardiness Raymond Lanting, record holder of the previous year, was doing his darnedest not to make an early and indelible impression on my records.

Another source of concern was my teaching schedule. Mondays and Thursdays were days I would gladly have scratched off the calendar! I would teach 205 in the mornings, only to see them again in the afternoons, hello you all, long time no see! In between, I had classes at 201, 206, and 202. Tuesdays and Fridays were my light days, during which I would have three morning classes and had the afternoons free.

LSFC PLAYERS

Class B-205 was a nest for LSFC players. At one point, there were as many as ten of them in the class. It was therefore a tremendous strain for me to try to keep an even keel when I was teaching. The mere sight of Sid or Janis sitting up straight and trying to keep up with the Big Bang Theory, The Nature of the State and the forms of government made me want to break up into wild fits of laughter each class. I could not do that, of course. I had to remain cold and impassive even if those characters had me tickled pink inside!

The way people perceived – and misinterpreted – my relationship with my players was to become an irritant in the days to come. Just because the boys dropped in on me at the office every once in a while to say “hi” or share a laugh or two, people thought they were getting preferential treatment. Of course they were special to me; they spent more hours with me on a daily basis than other students. However, it was always clear to these boys where the coach ended and where the moderator began. Thus, none of them expected to get unearned grades or be exempted from early morning duck-walking if they were late.

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